The snappily titled “Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional, Transitory and Saving Provisions) Order 2012” confirms that the section of the Localism Act which deals with changes to planning enforcement comes into force on 06 April 2012.

Perhaps the most noteworthy new power available to Local Authorities is at Section 124 of the Act which deals with deliberate cases of concealment of planning breaches. This is designed to avoid the possibility of blatant violations of planning control which have been deliberately hidden from the Local Authority in order to take advantage of the time limits for taking enforcement action beyond which the breach effectively becomes lawful. The time limits are four years for operational development (i.e. building works) or for change of use of a building to a dwelling and ten years in respect of any other chase of use. Section 124 of the Localism Act gives authorities the power in such circumstances to apply to the courts for a “planning enforcement order” which gives them a year to take enforcement action even though the usual time limit for enforcement action has expired.

Read more about the workings of the new power here.

Section 13(3) of the new Commencement Order confirms that a breach of planning control where the time limit for taking enforcement action under section 171B of the 1990 Act(13) (time limits) has expired before 06 April 2012 are immune from the new power. Many landowners sitting on historic breaches will breathe a sigh of relief. But breaches which have not yet passed their time limit for enforcement action at 06 April 2012 may be liable to the Local Authority applying for a planning enforcement order. So those who are currently concealing breaches holding out for the four or ten year time limit need to take note – and probably some good advice. Also property purchasers need to be very wary of any potential breaches of planning they may be taking on.

If you need advice on an enforcement issue then give Pure Town Planning a call.